Demonstrators in Hong Kong began burning their LeBron James jerseys and merchandise after the NBA star made comments that were critical of Daryl Morey, and cited the “negatives” of free speech.
Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong did not take kindly to James’ comments scolding a pro-democracy tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and slamming the American tradition of free speech as sometimes being “negative,” all because the NBA has lost money over its deals with China.
The protesters chanted support for Morey, and denounced James on Tuesday, according to ESPN.
Hong Kong protestors burn LeBron James Jerseys.
Never side with the communists. Never! pic.twitter.com/cayGvE1dDT
— Hotep Jesus (@HotepJesus) October 15, 2019
As China seeks to tighten its grip on the once free Hong Kong, protesters have flooded the streets to protect their freedoms. But last week, when Rockets GM Morey tweeted his support for the pro-democracy movement in the former British protectorate, the NBA sidled to China’s side and castigated Morey for his support of freedom.
Protesters in Hong Kong burn LeBron jerseys: Protestors gathered on courts amid Hong Kong's high-rise buildings to vent their anger and set fire to LeBron James jerseys after the Lakers star's comments about free speech. https://t.co/VAPIVHyBro pic.twitter.com/OPxbCjURDh
— StubOrder.com 🎟💺 (@StubOrder) October 15, 2019
By Monday, L.A. Lakers star LeBron James jumped feet first into the controversy by scolding Morey for supporting those seeking freedom and even attacking Morey’s right to free speech.
“Yes, we do have freedom of speech,” James said on Monday. “But at times, there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others when you only think about yourself.”
James went on to scold Morey for tweeting his support for Hong Kong’s demonstrators despite the harm it may have done to the NBA’s big-money deals with the Chinese.
“So many people could have been harmed,” James complained, “not only financially but physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and what we say and what we do. Even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, it can be a lot of negative that comes with it.”
But supporters of the pro-democracy demonstrators slammed James.
“James was trying, you know, to take a side, on the China side, which is, like, ridiculous,” Aaron Lee told ESPN. “He was being honest financially. Financial is money. Simple as that. LeBron James stands for money. Period.”
— BILL SOURCE (@billsource) October 15, 2019
“People are angry,” James Lo added.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.